My Sweet Guillotine, by Jayne Tuttle

26 September 2022
My Sweet Guillotine, by Jayne Tuttle book cover

My Sweet Guillotine (published by Hardie Grant Books, September 2022), is the second book by Australian author Jayne Tuttle.

Like her debut title, Paris or Die, My Sweet Guillotine is a memoir about her time living and working in Paris. Here though, Tuttle focuses adjusting to life following a freak accident in the French capital that almost killed her.

In the wake of a bizarre, shocking accident in Paris, Jayne finds herself back in the city in a strange limbo. Ignoring the past, she tries to move forward. There is theatre. Love. New friendships. A new neighbourhood. But the accident haunts her, forcing her to confront herself and the experience in ways she could never have predicted.

Sally Pryor, writing for The Canberra Times, describes My Sweet Guillotine as a book for those who enjoy reading about the lives and experiences of others:

Above all, My Sweet Guillotine is also a love letter – an older, wiser love letter to Paris, a place that has a majestic, wonderful indifference to her and her needs, and yet seems able to fulfil them so completely.

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Sydney to host the 2025 International Astronautical Congress

26 September 2022

With a number of planets, particularly Jupiter, dominating the eastern night sky of Australia at the moment, what better time to make mention that the 2025 International Astronautical Congress (IAC) will be held in the NSW capital, Sydney.

Founded in 1951, the International Astronautical Federation (IAF) is the world’s leading space advocacy body with around 460 members in 72 countries, including all leading space agencies, companies, research institutions, universities, societies, associations, institutes and museums worldwide. The Federation advances knowledge about space, supporting the development and application of space assets by promoting global cooperation.

The last time Australia hosted an IAC event was in 2017, when the International Astronautical Federation conference took place in Adelaide, South Australia.

On the subject of astronomical matters, check out If the Moon were only one pixel, by American interactive art director and designer Josh Worth. Now we can see why they call it space

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Artvee aggregating publicly available free artworks

26 September 2022

In recent years museums and art galleries have been releasing works of art into the public domain. But with so many collections online now, locating a particular artwork can be a challenge.

Enter then Artvee, which aggregates both classic and modern artworks that have been made freely available, by the likes of Musées de Reims, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, and the Smithsonian, among many others.

In the last few years, several major museums and libraries have instituted an open access policy by designating most or all of the public domain art in their collections with a creative commons license making them available for use for any purpose with no restrictions attached. We sort through and aggregate the best of these images in one location to make them easy to discover and download.

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Andor will take you back to the Star Wars you grew up with

24 September 2022

The trailer makes Andor, the latest Star Wars streaming series by Disney, look fascinating, but as we all know, trailers sometimes over-sell the story they’re promoting.

Set in the five year period prior to Rouge One, Andor however promises to take us back to the Star Wars we grew up with, says Michael Idato, writing for The Sydney Morning Herald.

At the centre of the series is Cassian Andor, and his involvement with the then fledgling rebellion against the Galactic Empire:

The “Andor” series will explore a new perspective from the Star Wars galaxy, focusing on Cassian Andor’s journey to discover the difference he can make. The series brings forward the tale of the burgeoning rebellion against the Empire and how people and planets became involved. It’s an era filled with danger, deception and intrigue where Cassian will embark on the path that is destined to turn him into a rebel hero.

Andor has been screening since Wednesday 21 September 2022. Jack Seale, writing for The Guardian, describes it as the best Star Wars show since The Mandalorianonce it gets going:

In its third instalment, Andor finally becomes the gritty, kinetic spy thriller it has been billed as, after a surfeit of thoughtful world-building. Thankfully, somebody at Disney+ has their head screwed on, because Andor has debuted with a triple bill. Make it through that opening marathon and you have what’s shaping up to be the best Star Wars show since The Mandalorian.

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Romans once thought Hadrian’s Wall was built by Severus

24 September 2022

Hadrian, who was Roman Emperor from 117 until 138 CE, built Hadrian’s Wall, right? Why else name the famous stone barricade after him? But as this fascinating Twitter thread by John Bull points out, for a long time it was believed someone else was responsible:

So you know Hadrian’s Wall? Well for over 1000 years everyone thought it was built by someone else.

Severus, who was Emperor from 193 to 211 CE, was one person nominated by Roman historians:

Severus was a pretty safe bet for these Roman historians. Everyone knew he’d done a lot of campaigning in Britain. He’d definitely built a bunch of stuff there. Even died there. HE built the big wall, they said.

But no, it was Hadrian. To his credit however, Severus did strengthen the wall several decades after its construction.

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Finland abolished homelessness by giving the homeless homes

23 September 2022

Why we in Australia can’t simply to resolve to deal with homelessness in the same way a country like Finland does, defies belief. People say the cost would be too great, but I think it’d be far less than the cost of having people living rough, or in emergency homeless shelters long term.

In Finland, the number of homeless people has fallen sharply. The reason: The country applies the “Housing First” concept. Those affected by homelessness receive a small apartment and counselling — without any preconditions. 4 out of 5 people affected thus make their way back into a stable life. And: All this is cheaper than accepting homelessness.

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The 2022 National Young Writers Festival

23 September 2022

The 2022 National Young Writers’ Festival (NYWF) runs from Thursday 29 September, through to Sunday 2 October, both in Newcastle, Australia (about one hundred and sixty kilometres north of Sydney), and online.

NYWF is so-called Australia’s largest gathering of young writers, with artists bringing their craft from all around (cities, regional, rural and our beloved regular cohort from Aotearoa). We showcase work in both new and traditional forms including zines, comics, blogging, screenwriting, poetry, spoken word, hip hop, music, journalism, autobiography, comedy and prose.

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Why destroy Instagram when Meta could clone TikTok instead?

22 September 2022
TikTok app on smartphone, photo by Antonbe

Image courtesy of Antonbe.

Why is Meta so intent on mutating photo-sharing app Instagram (IG) into their answer to riotously popular video-sharing service TikTok, when that obviously is not the answer?

Instagram and TikTok are fundamentally different, but Meta doesn’t seem to know that.

Why doesn’t Meta opt to reinvent the wheel instead? Why not simply build their own version of TikTok? With the design talent and engineering resources Mata have at their disposal, they could do so instantly. And by leveraging their almost three billion Facebook members, and over one billion IG users, it wouldn’t take long for a clone to achieve critical mass.

But Meta appears to be reluctant to foist another app on users. They are apparently already overloaded with the likes of Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp, and of course, IG. Their only choice then is to butcher IG beyond recognition. Even if the reaction of IG users suggests that’s a bad idea.

How long will it take Meta to see the light here? Build your own standalone video-sharing service app which we can choose, or not choose, to use, and leave IG the way it was.

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Reading the future in the cracks of your smartphone screen

21 September 2022
Cracked smartphone screen, photo by Jan Kuss

Image courtesy of Jan Kuss/(Instagram).

I wouldn’t go doing this deliberately… there must be better ways to learn what the future holds, like waiting until it happens perhaps. Nonetheless, there may be a way to glimpse your future in the cracks of a smashed smartphone screen, and it’s known as smashomancy.

A smartphone screen is, of course, a veritable semantic orchard of icons and affordances, titles and statuses and means of navigation. But to find true insight we must look beyond the legible to more uncertain and chaotic territory. True, a smartphone in its role as a nexus of communication is an endless stream of signal and noise, but that is extrinsic to its embodied self. To truly understand its meaning, we must understand its physical nature.

Your future is indeed in the palm of your hand.

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Craigslist keeping it simple and the same for twenty-five years

21 September 2022

When I started designing websites back in the day, you were lucky to get a couple of months out of a look. With new web technologies, and design ideas and trends, constantly emerging, it was necessary to redesign almost monthly*. We’re talking personal sites here, but in the late nineties, they were the closest thing an aspiring web designer had to a social media presence, or something like LinkedIn.

I’m certain though there are any number of still active websites that have not changed in the last twenty-five years or so, and American classified adverts site Craigslist is among them. Speaking recently to PCMag writer Emily Dreibelbis, Craigslist founder Craig Newmark, says staying the same is the best way to serve their users:

Because that serves people better. I’ve learned that people want stuff that is simple and fast and gets the job done. People don’t need fancy stuff. Sometimes you just want to get through the day.

* or what felt like every month.

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Australia will be a republic says former PM Julia Gillard

20 September 2022

Australia will become a republic says Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard, though right this minute is not the time to think about it.

Asked if she was still of the view the Queen’s death would be an appropriate time to move away from a British head of state, Gillard said: “Yes, I always thought that when the Queen did leave us, that it would cause a period of reflection. I always thought in Australia too it would unleash a new set of reflections about our own constitutional arrangements. But there’s no rush and I certainly endorse what the prime minister has said. There’s time for measured discussion. It’s certainly too soon for that now.”

An opinion poll taken days after Queen Elizabeth II died, found sixty percent of Australians favoured retaining the British monarch as head of state. While it could be argued the Queen’s death generated some support for the status quo, the republican cause has somewhat floundered in recent years.

I’m in favour of a republic, with an Australian head of state (rather than the reigning British monarch), but maintain public support would need to be the other way around, that is, sixty percent in favour of an Australian republic instead of the monarchy, before that could happen.

A clear majority of Australians would need to support such a momentous change in the way the country is governed.

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A timeline of electric guitar invention and innovation

19 September 2022

A timeline of electric guitar invention and innovation, by Dutch guitarist and tutor Paul Davids. Starting from 1950, when the Fender Telecaster guitar arrived — originally called Broadcaster — followed soon after of course by the Gibson Les Paul, and then right on through.

Almost all guitars currently on the market are either a direct descendant of, or very similar to, a handful of instruments that came to life during the span of one decade: the fifties.

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Doing anything for a living even dishwashing by Dugald Jellie

19 September 2022

Writers in Australia are often forced to work several jobs to support their craft, something Evelyn Araluen, winner of the 2022 Stella Prize, could tell you. Some of the roles aspiring creatives take on — and washing dishes may, or may not, be among them — doubtless would not be their first choice, but are usually a vital means to an end nonetheless.

Then again, force of circumstance may see anyone end up taking on work they are overqualified for, but need regardless. Melbourne based fifty-something Dugald Jellie writes about taking on dish washing duties at a busy cafe, after finding himself in need of work, any work:

How I got here might be a cautionary tale. The choices we make. A few wrong turns, a misstep, some bad timing, and now I work between four sinks — in the kitchen, front-of-house — stacking plates, hands wet, at the bottom of the food chain, a tea towel slung over my shoulder.

Recommended reading for a Monday morning.

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Heartbreak High 2022 picks up where original series left off

17 September 2022

Iconic Australian high-school television drama Heartbreak High, which screened during the nineties, has been rebooted for a new generation. No holds barred might be one way to describe the original series, which didn’t hesitate to confront viewers, as Kylie Northover, of The Age, writes:

A spin-off of the 1993 film The Heartbreak Kid (itself a spin-off from a play of the same name), the series depicted an inner-city Sydney high school, Hartley High, that looked like the real multicultural world, and dealt with taboo topics such as racism, drugs, sexuality, domestic abuse and even teacher-student affairs.

If the trailer for Heartbreak High 2022 is anything to go by, then it looks like producers Netflix intend to continue where the original series left off.

Fun fact: a former colleague of mine appeared in one episode of the original series.

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Ireland to offer a weekly basic income to artists and creatives

17 September 2022

The Irish government will pay two thousand artists and creative arts workers a basic income of three hundred and twenty-five Euros (about four hundred and eighty Australian dollars) per week, as part of a trial being conducted over the next three years.

The Basic Income for the Arts pilot scheme will examine, over a 3 year period, the impact of a basic income on artists and creative arts workers. Payments of €325 per week will be made to 2,000 eligible artists and creative arts workers who will be selected at random and invited to take part.

This is the sort of initiative that’s needed in Australia, where artists and writers seldom earn more than fifty-thousand dollars a year — likely well below that for many — compared to the average annual salary of about ninety-thousand dollars for other workers.

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Digital nomads soon able to work tax free in Indonesia

17 September 2022

People who need little more than a laptop and an internet connection for their work, and want to live in Indonesia, will soon be able to apply for the newly introduced Digital Nomad Visa. Presently the work-permit will allow remote workers to spend six months in Indonesia tax free, though the Indonesian government is considering extending the visa to five years.

The Indonesian Government has just announced the proposed introduction of a brand new ‘Digital Nomad Visa’, with them looking to welcome three million lucky freelancers to their tropical shores for a five-year working visa. This is excellent news for remote workers, allowing visa holders to stay in paradise long-term on an international income, all without having to pay any taxes to the Indonesian government.

While the digital nomads may not be paying taxes, much of the money they earn will be spent locally, boosting businesses in the areas workers choose to reside in.

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UFO sightings surge in skies above Ukraine recently

16 September 2022

Astronomers in Ukraine have observed an uptick in unidentified flying objects over the country in recent months. While it seem obvious there would be more aerial activity with a war raging in the region, scientists are adamant what they’re seeing in Ukrainian skies are not military vessels.

Ukraine astronomers have reported a slew of UFOs observed in the country’s airspace. They’ve reported their findings in a preprint paper published by Kyiv’s Main Astronomical Observatory Ukraine’s National Academy of Science. Remember, UFOs don’t necessarily mean extraterrestrial spaceships from other planets. Perhaps they are advanced military aircraft from much closer to home, like even from one of Ukraine’s (ahem) neighbors.

All the more curious given recent reports from US Navy pilots who say they’ve seen unidentified flying objects during flight operations. Are unidentified flying objects drawn to areas where military craft are operating?

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Relive the good old days of Daft Punk at the Daft Punk cafe

14 September 2022

The Daft Punk cafe, by Ukrainian developer, and fan of the erstwhile French electronic music duo, Vadim Demedes.

With daftpunk.cafe, I wanted to create a fun corner on the internet for Daft Punk fans around the world. Listen to the radio, play some tetris or test your knowledge of track names and just have a good time!

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When the famous die, people flock to their Wikipedia pages

14 September 2022

When someone famous dies, visits to their Wikipedia page usually surge, as this visualisation by The Pudding shows. Sometimes the count goes off the scale. A case in point is late musician Prince. When he died in 2016, his Wikipedia page was viewed over eleven millon times in the two days afterwards.

More than 1,300 notable people died in the past three years, according to Wikipedia. Here are 84 who got over half a million pageviews in the first 48 hours after their deaths. Although no one grabbed our attention quite like Prince, the spike in pageviews after a celebrity’s death can often overshadow that of other major events, even a presidential inauguration.

One can only imagine what the pageview numbers will be for British monarch Queen Elizabeth II, who died last week. Incredibly, or perhaps not, her death was noted on her Wikipedia page within seconds. Editors of the online encyclopaedia were also swift to change the page of then Prince Charles, to King Charles III, this before his regnal name had been officially confirmed.

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Ideas to help introverts and extroverts work together

14 September 2022

Philip Coggan, writing for the Economist’s Bartleby column, with workplace strategies helping introverts and extraverts to more effectively work together, despite their personality differences.

Then there’s this:

The study also found that the children of professionals were more likely to be extrovert. It could simply be that children who grow up in more prosperous homes are less likely to face the kind of stressful events that undermine self-confidence. People with higher self-confidence may apply for more prestigious jobs and may be more likely to believe that their efforts will be rewarded; those with a negative self-image may feel it is not worth trying too hard.

Maybe I’m reading this paragraph in the wrong context, but the suggestion seems to be introverts see themselves negatively, and aren’t so confident. That’s not my understanding of introversion.

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